To the end of the «Arktika» winter road is 845 kms. The further south you go, the more trees can be seen and forest-tundra is replaced by taiga. Between Srednekolymsk and Verkhnekolymsk, the winter road rolls over bumps among endless stretches of larch, wild taiga with no end and edge. Crossing the border of the polar circle, suddenly the wind starts. Snow flurries crawl along the road like snakes. Despite the bright sun, everything around is shrouded in snow driven by the currents of air at ground level, and I am chilled by the wind.
From the road, the landscapes do not look so impressive. The sparse vegetation of the forest-tundra and the absence of mountains make this area not only visually boring, but also dangerous. Winds blow here more often than in other places on the Arctic winter road. Snowstorms seal the roads. Drivers stranded in the snow have to wait for several days until road workers with tractors make their way to them. Everywhere you can see ruts clogged with snow, evidence of the struggles of recent weeks. The sun sets quickly, almost abruptly, as the heavy hand of cold falls on the earth. In the brief lilac sunset, smoke can be seen rising over the village of Andryushkino. The village stands on the banks of the winding Alazeya River and is a difficult place to live, not only in winter. In summer, the territory around is flooded with water and the village becomes an island, separated from civilisation by swamps and lakes. More than 20,000 lakes are located in the Alazeya basin alone. In winter, merciless blizzards rage, forcing people to sit at home for weeks. Yet still, people do not want to leave the village, the home of their ancestors.
There are almost no roads through the village. Most of the directions are just snowmobile tracks. My wheels falling into the snow, I struggle to make my way to the boiler house building, focusing on the smoke from the chimney. It gets dark. Today is April 8th, my birthday, the furthest from home I have ever been on this day. People here make a living from searching for mammoth tusks preserved in the permafrost as well as by the more usual reindeer herding and fishing. It is difficult to imagine more difficult living conditions. But as in other places where life is harsh, local residents are quick to show kindness and give assistance to travellers. Not because the people here are special, but rather they understand that mutual assistance is necessary for life. The motorcycle finds a place for the night in a warm boiler room, the source of heating for the village, while I settle down in a small school. In places like this the greatest pleasure comes from the smallest things, and you really appreciate the simplest shelter for protection from the harsh natural world outside.